With the start of another school year, I was thinking about the amazing opportunities our kids have to use technology in ways we never dreamed. I came from the age when having Oregon Trail and a program that would make the week’s vocabulary words into a crossword puzzle meant you had the coolest teacher in school. I remember fondly typing my first book report on an ACTUAL typewriter!
I have a two year old and a six month old, and I am already preparing them for a responsible and positive relationship with technology. My opinions are just that; opinions, and I believe there is no absolute right way in parenting our children in this new tech age. But in an effort to help parents, the American Association of Pediatrics, is one of many associations, that offers us a set of guidelines on Children and media use. It is important to remember that every child is different but these guidelines can be helpful.
You can read the Children and Young Minds policy statement here: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/5/e20162591.
Now that you’ve read my disclaimer, I would like to share a typical week at my house. The AAP’s recommendation for acceptable screen time for our young child is one hour a day. My husband is a stay at home parent and yes, we own a television. We let our two year old watch PBS kids shows, a variety of Disney movies (though, he’s pretty stuck on Cars and Toy Story) and a few other movies we deem appropriate. We are also getting him prepared for preschool by teaching him the alphabet, numbers, colors and shapes. No matter how many books and toys we have tried, ultimately the Preschool Roku channel turned out to be the best tool for our child. For no more than an hour a day we will let him count to 100 with the TV, sing the ABC song, and watch the shapes and colors dance across the screen.
When you add it all up, he gets about twice the recommended screen time for a child that age by the end of the week. We have a fenced yard with an amazing dog that he plays with for a couple hours each day, he has plenty of toys, and a cute little sister to boss around, so the TV is not on all day, but it is more than an hour. My husband and I both have tablets but my son is not allowed to use them independently. He is also not allowed to use our cell phones but, like many children today, he has his own “phone” (Daddy’s old broken one) which he uses to “call Gramma”.
My husband and I are not worried about breaking the suggested guidelines because in a few short years he will be entering Elementary school where he may very well be assigned an IPad or a Chromebook. He will use them to learn about geography and history and math and science, and I am grateful that he will have those opportunities to learn using technology. After all, he will use technology everyday as he progresses through school, to college, and starts looking for a career. I’m excited for him to learn about these things with his teachers.
Many schools now have amazing programs such as Robotics competitions, Code clubs, where kids learn how to design and create their own video games, Aerospace programs, and Web design electives. I have read about middle school programs in South Florida that focus on Green Architecture and Engineering in order to restore and keep the Everglades healthy. Even today’s photography classes use digital cameras and the latest photo apps to tap into our kids’ inner artists.
My favorite class in high school was Advanced Music Theory and Composition, (yes, I was a band geek) where we learned advanced music concepts and actually got to apply them by writing our own songs. Thanks to computers I didn’t have to write every chord by hand and go play it on the piano; I clicked my mouse on the screen, placing notes where I wanted them, chose the instrument, and hit the play button. IT WAS LIKE MAGIC. Now, teachers can press an icon on an IPad and share their screen with the whole class on a TV mounted to their wall.
“We need technology in every classroom and in every student and teacher’s hand, because it is the pen and paper of our time, and it is the lens through which we experience much of our world.” – David Warlick
Some people feel like we’re creating a generation of young adults who will rely on technology like a crutch, zombie like people who cannot survive without an IPhone. On the other hand, many people, like myself, believe that with balance our kids can have a healthy relationship with technology, using the tools they are given to gain the skills needed for a successful and focused future.
I look forward to my kids coming home from school to tell me what kind of exciting things they discovered with the help of technology in our classrooms. I also appreciate and am proud to work for a company that supports our local schools to ensure the teachers have the technical resources and tools they need to empower and teach our children in this new technological age.